Despite the International Court’s decision…why does Israel continue to attack Rafah?

Israel continues its military operations, despite the International Court’s order to stop its attack on Rafah, as it tries to walk a dividing line between not angering its allies in the United States and trying to achieve strategic goals that it considers too important to abandon, according to a report by the New York Times.

After several weeks of warnings from the White House, both the Israelis and Americans describe the military operation in Rafah as “limited,” allowing the IDF to proceed, albeit more slowly and cautiously than in other parts of Gaza.

Why does Israel continue to attack Rafah?
On Saturday, the Israeli army bombed the Gaza Strip, especially Rafah, the day after the International Court of Justice issued an order for Israel to stop its military operations in the southern governorate “immediately.”

On the night of Saturday and Sunday, the Israeli army intensified its artillery and aircraft bombardment of the city of Rafah, located in the far south, as well as areas in the center and north of the Gaza Strip, according to what eyewitnesses reported to Agence France-Presse.

For Israel, seizing Rafah and the border would effectively complete the process of “reoccupying” the Gaza Strip, and could mean moving to a different phase of less intense raids.

The Israelis say Rafah is home to the last four relatively organized Hamas brigades, and major infrastructure for tunnels and rocket launchers.

Israeli military objectives remain unchanged. It wants to secure the entire border with Egypt, destroy smuggling tunnels, dismantle the last Hamas brigades, return the movement’s remaining hostages to Israel, and completely break Hamas’ administrative control over the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces initially focused on securing the sparsely populated border, which revolves around the city of Rafah and pressuring nearly a million people displaced from other parts of Gaza to move to areas that are supposed to be safer but conditions remain dire.

What are the reasons for “softening tactics”?
Analysts told the New York Times that anger and warnings from the administration of US President Joe Biden and other close allies of Israel had the effect of easing Israeli tactics, even if the attack remained devastating.

Officers who have just left the fighting in Rafah say Israel is “using less air power and artillery, and fewer and smaller bombs,” forcing Israeli soldiers to engage in urban guerrilla warfare with Hamas fighters.

With the Americans insisting that Israel evacuate civilians as much as possible from the areas of planned operations, in the past two weeks, up to a million civilians have moved west towards the sea and safer areas, and even if shelter facilities are available, food and care for them are “insufficient.”

But even if civilians are not in the line of fire, the threats to them remain serious with little or no aid crossing from Egypt.

Closing the border with Egypt?
Tamir Hayman, executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies and reserve general and former head of military intelligence from 2018 to 2021, said Israeli negotiators misread their Egyptian counterparts and thought Cairo would not strongly object to Israel’s takeover of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, believes that some Hamas fighters are evacuating with civilians, hoping to fight again in areas that Israel occupied and then withdrew from, such as in Jabalia, where renewed fighting has intensified.

Michael agrees with Israeli officials that the four Hamas brigades still in Rafah “are not as well trained as those in the north and do not represent a pressing problem.”

For his part, Hayman said that strategically, it is very important for Israel to close the border with Egypt.

Despite Egyptian denials of any tolerance for smuggling into Gaza, Hayman said, “Israeli intelligence believes that most of Hamas’ weapons and components came from Egypt, either through smuggling tunnels or through the crossing itself, and were often carefully hidden over the years in ordinary commercial trucks.” “.

Israel said publicly that it had discovered about 700 tunnel openings in Rafah and its environs, leading to 50 larger tunnels for smuggling to Egypt.

Michael said that the army has chosen not to blow up the tunnels yet because it would cause damage inside Egypt.

He added that for the same reason, the army does not reveal photos of the tunnels to try to avoid embarrassing the Egyptian government, which in the past has acted aggressively to find and destroy such tunnels. (free)


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